News and Resources from the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


Time to make 2015 Health Benefits Decisions

By Patsy Glista, AIM, Assistant to the Bishop for Operations

Congregations should have received an email communication earlier this week letting them know that your organization’s 2015 Custom Comparison Report is available on EmployerLink. Between September 15 and October 17 all employers need to review this material and go on EmployerLink and indicate the health plan option your organization will offer to your pastor and other employees. Your organization’s customized report will help the congregation’s decision-makers understand how:

  • the 2015 health benefit options compare to the health benefit option you offer now,
  • each health benefit option would affect your plan members, and
  • your organization’s contribution amounts will change.

Basic group life insurance, pension and retiree support contributions will remain the same in 2015. Contribution rates for health and disability benefits will change in 2015. In 2014 all employers benefited from Portico’s waiving the contribution of 0.8% for disability due to lower than average usage in the previous year. For 2015 the disability rate will be 2.5%. The 11% increase in the health rate is primarily driven by greater than average use of health care dollars by plan members.

There are tools available on EmployerLink to help you in your decision-making. You will find information to help you and other decision-makers select your option including:

  • A short welcome video
  • Your estimated 2015 benefit costs in the Custom Comparison Report
  • Details about your options

Remember, your selection is required on EmployerLink by Oct. 17. Your plan members will enter their 2015 benefit decisions Oct. 27 – Nov. 21. If you need assistance Portico Customer Service Representatives are available at 800.352.2876.

The Synod Office Is Moving

By Patsy Glista, AIM, Assistant to the Bishop for Operations

On Wednesday, October 15, 2014 the Upstate New York Synod offices will relocate to 5811 Heritage Landing Drive, 1st Floor, East Syracuse, NY 13057-9360. St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Camillus from whom we currently rent their old parsonage building, is selling the property to USA Realty. The property will be demolished to make room for USA Realty expansion. Our new office location is owned by the Synod of the Northeast, Presbyterian Church USA, and offers possibilities for ecumenical partnership. Our phone numbers and email contacts will remain the same.

We expect the synod offices to be closed 2 – 3 days the week ofOctober 13. We ask your patience as we move furnishings, phones and internet service from one location to the other. During that time staff will be available by cell phone. Please check the October 1 Upstate Update for more information.

We give thanks for volunteers from Buffalo and Syracuse who came to help us with sorting, tossing, cleaning out and some initial packing in preparation for this move. We invite your prayers for synod staff as we traverse this transition.

Share “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday

We are a church that rolls up our sleeves and gets to work.

The Upstate New York Synod wants to help tell your story of how we serve together. Please plan to take photos and/or video and capture the story of your service project(s) by interviewing participants and the people you serve. Read on for ideas of how you can best tell and share your story.

Because projects are spread out across the Synod during the same time-frame, we need your help to tell the story of “God’s work. Our hands. Sunday”.

Please take pictures of your people at work. Candid action shots are preferable to “posed” shots if possible. Go here to download a photo release form granting us permission to publish the photos that you can copy and ask subjects to sign.

If possible, have someone record the story of your service. We’ll want to know how people experienced the day of service, what impact it makes on them, and (if appropriate) how people served viewed the day. If you are not able to generate a short article about the project, even a few testimonial quotes will suffice. You might even want to ask people to self-evaluate after the event by filling in a form asking how they experienced the day and what they learned from it.

If you have the ability, please capture some video of the event as well. It would be useful to have background footage of people at work and some short interviews with participants as described above. If you have the capacity to produce a short segment of video that would be useful for you to show to your congregation and post on your website. If not, it will be helpful to us to receive raw footage for possible compilation into a synod-wide video.

It’s a good idea to share your observations and photos on your Facebook and Twitter feeds. On social media use the hashtags

#ELCAdayofservice and #UNYS

While you are doing that please post once to our Upstate New York Synod Facebook page at Make sure you “Like” our page and tag us in your posts.

Please share your stories, pictures and videos as soon as is practical with Neal Fischer (

  • Articles or interview quotes can be sent to Neal via email to Please include “Day Of Service Story” in the subject line.
  • Photos can be attached to email to (put “Day of Service Photo” in the subject line) or, if there are many photos, upload to your favorite photo site (, Google Plus, SmugMug, etc.) and send the link to Neal.
  • Share videos by posting to YouTube, Vimeo, etc. and sharing the link with Neal. Thanks for your help!

What is your congregation doing? Tell us!

Selfies with the Bishop

During Saturday’s installation we’d like to encourage you to take a “selfie with the Bishop” either before the installation or during the reception. If you use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Flickr to share, please use the hashtags

#selfiewiththebishop and #UNYS

Also, if you are bringing a camera, please consider sharing your photos with us. We’ve set up an upload site to share together. Simply visit where you will see a place to drag and drop your photos from your computer.

Photos can be attached to email to (put “Installation” in the subject line) or, if there are many photos, upload to your favorite photo site (, Google Plus, SmugMug, etc.) and send the link to Neal.

Share videos by posting to YouTube, Vimeo, etc. and sharing the link with Neal. Thanks for your help!

A Farewell from Marie C. Jerge, Bishop

Dear Resurrection People of the Upstate New York Synod,

There are many symbols of the Office of Bishop that have deep meaning for me. One is the synod’s pectoral cross. I will place it around the neck of Bishop-elect John Macholz at his installation, as it was placed on mine by Bishop Lee Miller twelve years ago. This cross was purchased at the start of the ELCA and modeled on the ELCA Presiding Bishop’s pectoral cross. Several synods have the same design or similar design. Our synod’s is unique in that at its center is a New York State Garnet (the NYS Stone) instead of the usual amethyst. As I have worn it on visitations, people, especially children, have often commented on its size and weight. It is a reminder that one cannot take the Office of Bishop lightly.

Another sign of office is the crozier. The one I have carried is not carved or fancy. It is not embellished with precious metals. It is a plain wooden staff, reminiscent of the crook carried by shepherds, used to prod, protect and rescue the sheep. This one was handcrafted, not for worship rituals, but for a December party celebrating St. Nicholas Day. Someone fashioned it to go with Bishop Edward Perry’s St. Nicholas costume. It has been “lost and found” more than once, but we can thank Pastor Jack Printzenhoff for rescuing it in a garage sale and putting it to use for a time in Christmas pageants in western NY, before it found its place of honor in the bishop’s office.

What I have most appreciated about this particular crozier is that it is a sign of resurrection all its own. It was originally a broomstick, re-fashioned and re-shaped for its new purpose, much like we are reshaped and remolded as we grow in Christian faith after baptism. It also serves as a reminder that although the Office of Bishop is one of oversight, it is not a place of high rank or honor, as much as it is one of humble serving. And Lord knows there is always plenty of cleaning up to be done.

I am deeply grateful for having had the privilege of wearing the cross and carrying the crozier for a time. I am also thankful to God for all the partners in mission with whom I have walked and worked – those within the Upstate New York Synod, as well as those across the church and around the world. I have done my best in these 12 years (and more) to be an example of servant leadership. Where I have failed I ask forgiveness. Where I have succeeded I give God the glory. I trust that along the way some lives have been changed by the good news of Jesus Christ crucified and risen.

I am humbled and moved by the many expressions of thanks and good wishes that I have received in recent weeks. I give thanks for the gifts that have been given in thanksgiving for my ministry in your midst, especially those that will support the Synod Mission Fund and the ELCA Campaign’s global initiatives. To quote St. Paul,

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of the Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:3-6

On September 6, I will pass on the cross and the crozier to John as they were once passed on to me. I pray that he will receive them with a sense of their history and a sure and certain hope in the gracious and transforming power of Jesus Christ. I will be praying for him and I ask that you do the same. And I trust that God will bless him in his serving as God has blessed me in mine.

Grace and peace,

Marie C. Jerge
aka “Mama” Bishop

A PDF version of this letter suitable for printing and posting is available here.